The last fortnight has proved emphatically that short of a miraculous turnaround, Collingwood will spend a third-straight year outside the AFL finals.
There were signs of life for three weeks – two wins, including a big upset of Geelong, and a hard-fought loss to the Western Bulldogs.
But a 67-point loss to Port Adelaide and now their 46-point loss to Melbourne on Queen’s Birthday Monday – two opponents outside the top eight – leave the Magpies languishing in their bye round with a 4-8 record.
Certainly a bad run with injuries has not helped, but Collingwood simply have not played well enough for long enough.
Coach Nathan Buckley took note of what St Kilda counterpart Alan Richardson said before their upset win over Carlton on Sunday – that they are either learners or losers.
“We have to improve our output first,” Buckley said.
“We’re capable of better than what we dished up today.
“Our endeavour and effort were okay, but the first 98 per cent is easy to find.
“It’s the last couple of per cent that really counts.”
Collingwood had one more inside 50 than Melbourne, but 125 less possessions.
“Their pressure was through the roof and our pressure was okay, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to effect turnovers,” Buckley said.
It particularly galled the Magpies coach that Steele Sidebottom received so little support when Tom Bugg was shutting him down.
The Collingwood leader only had 17 possessions and Bugg did a great job.
“(He) gets sat on from the opposition and the question asked post-match was how many of Steele’s teammates got across to help him,” Buckley said.
“How many of Steele’s teammates made life more uncomfortable for Tom Bugg?
“When we’re up and about, we have the opposition having to throw on ice packs left, right and centre, because we’re hard to play against.
“The last two weeks in particular, I don’t think we’ve been that and ultimately that comes home to roost with all of us.”